VIOLENT SOHO have become, arguably, Australia’s biggest new rock band in the past few years. From their fan-favourite self-titled album, to their two latest smash hit records, Hungry Ghost (2013) and WACO (2016), they have done nothing but be themselves. Their career has been a long journey to popularity and a very unexpected one for the band themselves.
“We never really participated in the music industry to begin with. Growing up in Brisbane there was no real hope of making it in the music industry.” Guitarist, James Tidswell, says, “We kinda always felt successful doing our own thing and not being ambitious in that sort of way. Playing to us was success and I think that’s why we still love playing and being in a band so much.”
This attitude towards success is only reinforced when talking to the band about their accomplishments. Always extremely grateful for the support they’ve received, the band were shocked when they had five songs from their most recent effort, WACO, place in triple j’s latest Hottest 100 (‘How To Taste’, ‘No Shade’, ‘Blanket’, ‘So Sentimental’ and ‘Viceroy’).
“We were stoked!” Tidswell recalls, “I couldn’t believe it because I personally only voted for four of our songs because I thought five was impossible!”
Not too bad for a little band from an intensely religious community. Violent Soho grew up in Mansfield, a suburb in Brisbane which has become known as the “bible belt” of the city. The experiences the band members have of growing up in this environment, and their aversion to it, inspire most of their music.
“I think almost every lyric on our albums is about growing up in a Hillsong-style environment and what we think about it, or how we think it has affected us or others in some way or another.” Tidswell reflects, “I don’t know how it has affected our lives or music, but I think we’re pretty passionate about what we do because aside from the party way [that] it’s presented and performed, I think we really feel like we have something to say.”
Looking back at the start of their career, their success no longer comes as much as a surprise. Violent Soho were handed their first recording contract by alternative rock icon, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth). It was from his vote of confidence that the band built themselves up.
“I was telling [Moore] how I love the band called ‘Budd’ from our hometown here in Brisbane from the ‘90s, and he not only knew them, he put out a double 10-inch of them in the ‘90s.” Tidswell recalls, “next time we caught up he brought the rest of the unsold 10-inches over to our house for us to take home and give to the band.”
Violent Soho have a similar, down-to-earth attitude that just exudes from them and their music. Content playing to anybody who’s willing to listen, love is something felt very strongly among their fanbase. The band are very excited to come back to Canberra for the second time in a year, playing last year’s Spilt Milk festival in December.
“It’s been awesome [playing to Canberra crowds] and it seems to get better every time we come.” Tidswell says, “we first played in Canberra in 2006 opening for The Grates at the ANU Bar and that was unreal because it was the first time we’d ever played a venue Nirvana had played in.”
Violent Soho’s live shows are known to be wild. The band have a unique knack for channelling punk rock energy and throwing it into the crowd. Vocalist and main songwriter, Luke Boerdam, sings his songs with incredible conviction, but leaves Tidswell to talk to the crowd in between songs. Bass player, Luke Henery, commonly swirls his long hair around so violently you would be safe to assume he wakes up every morning with a killer headache.
“It all comes naturally, really. I think we’re just so excited to be there that it just comes out on stage that way. We’re just trying to convey our excitement and gratitude to everyone in the audience,” Tidswell muses. “As far as the talking goes, I just talk when I get nervous and I get nervous when we’re just standing there and not playing music … so unfortunately everyone has to put up with me saying dumb shit in between songs.”
Violent Soho’s humble attitude is a refreshing change in a genre of music so easily plagued by elitists and purists. The band are just happy doing what they love and sharing it with whoever wants to enjoy it, and that is the key to their success.
Violent Soho will be playing Groovin The Moo at the University of Canberra on Sunday May 7. Tickets sold out.